Iron Deficiency Anaemia

Iron deficiency anaemia is a deficiency of haemoglobin in the blood most commonly caused by not meeting dietary requirements of iron or an excess blood loss.

It results in a small blood cell (microcytic) which contains a reduced amount of haemoglobin (hypochromic)(1, 2). 2-3% of the population is thought to suffer iron deficient anaemia. This number skyrockets up to 40% for those who practice a vegetarian or vegan diet.(3)

Signs & Symptoms

  • Brittle nails
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Nail spooning
  • Pallor of skin and conjunctiva
  • Tachycardia
  • Easy fatigability
  • Headache
  • Appetite for substances not fit as food

The first and foremost goal in treating iron deficiency anaemia is restoring normal concentration of haemoglobin and mean corpuscular volume. It should be noted to the reader that iron deficient anaemia is present in many other serious pathologies, thus it is advised to treat any underling pathology accordingly.

Regardless, all patients should be prescribed iron supplementation to replenish normal stores. The most widely used method is supplementation in a liquid suspension or oral pill of ferrous sulphate given at a dosage of 200mg three times daily for 34 weeks where haemoglobin concentration should rise by 2g/Dl.

Once anaemia has been rectified it is advised that supplementation be continued for three months to restore iron stores completely. Often patients will complain of side effects such as constipation, nausea, vomiting and diahorea after taking oral iron supplements in up to 50% of cases.(4, 5)


  1. Alton I. Iron deficiency anemia. Guidelines for adolescent nutrition services Stang J, Story M, eds. 2005:101- 8.
  2. Ferri FF. Ferri’s Clinical Advisor. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2013. p. 312.
  3. Killip S, Bennett JM, Chambers MD. Iron deficiency anemia. American family physician. 2007;75(5):671-8.
  4. Goddard AF, McIntyre A, Scott BB. Guidelines for the management of iron deficiency anaemia. Gut. 2000;46(suppl 4):iv1-iv5.

Cancelo-Hidalgo MJ, Castelo-Branco C, Palacios S, Haya-Palazuelos J, Ciria-Recasens M, Manasanch J, et al.   Tolerability of different oral iron supplements: a systematic review. Current medical research and opinion. 2013;29(4):291-303.

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